#53 – An Identity Conflict

June 18, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Posted in Adoption differences, adoption issues, Adoptive parenting do's, Identity issues | Leave a comment
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The other day I was talking with an adoption expert who spoke about a young man he was counseling.  This man had been coming for counseling for several years because he wanted to become closer to his birth family that he had met, but in doing so he felt he would distance himself from his adoptive family.

There are people in this world who don’t think adoptees have issues.  It’s easy for those with one family to say this because they don’t have the dilemma that faces many reunited adoptees – the factor of loyalty.

Loyalty and trust are often an issue with adoptees long before they may or may not meet their birth family.  Often adoptees express the thought that if they can’t trust their birth family to keep them, who can they trust.  They see no loyalty on the part of their birth family.

Years later, if they meet their birth family and hear the whole story as to why and how they were relinquished, they may rethink this loyalty issue.  Perhaps their birth mother truly did not have a viable choice if she could not care for a baby.  One can see where this could raise many issues the adoptee might have to rethink.

If an adoptee meets his birth family as an adult, assuming he is somewhat settled in his life, this can present pressures he didn’t imagine.  Now he is expected to be loyal to two families.  How is that done?  Who do you see on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, and other holidays?  How do you make one family happy with your presence without hurting or making the other family angry?  After all, you are choosing where you want to be.  By choosing one, you’re rejecting the other…. And rejection is an all too familiar emotion to many adoptees.

I think many of our children, particularly as teen-agers, go through this same thought process in trying to determine just who they are.  Where should they place their loyalty? Do they have similarities to their adoptive family?  How about any similarities to their birth family – known or unknown.  Is there a loyalty issue here?  In absorbing adoptive family values, mores, and religion, is there a conflict or contradiction as to who they might be if still in their birth family?

Being a teen is hard enough, trying to figure out who you are and what you will become is a challenge, then throw in the potential conflict (rarely spoken out loud by anyone) and you can have a conflicted child.  There are plenty of conflicts during those years anyway.  Adoptees – and their parents – can have an even greater struggle.

This is something that might be mitigated if talked about openly.  Everyone, including our teen-agers are in charge of who they are and who they are going to become.  They need to hear it’s all right to pick and choose from various sources the qualities they want to incorporate into their lives.  If we as adoptive parents open this dialogue, there should be no guilt for our children to struggle with.  They need to hear it’s okay to go with their instincts and biological inclinations.  They do not need to be clones of their adoptive family.

This path just might negate the need to see an adoption counselor as a grown man or woman.  It should take away the guilt.

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